As children across the country get ready to return to classrooms, several trainee guide dogs are getting into the ‘back to school’ spirit.
Dogs including German shepherd Fordi, golden retriever Ron and black Labrador-golden retriever cross Atlas, have arrived at Guide Dogs’ London training hub to as students of the Guide Dogs training programme. Equipped with bags of toys and treats and their brown training harnesses, the dogs have everything the need to learn.
At ‘big school’ the dogs will begin Standardised Training for Excellent Partnerships (STEP) training. The training lasts around 25 weeks and teaches the dogs how to guide and aid their future owner. They learn tasks such as avoiding obstacles, navigating road crossings and finding empty chairs for their owner to sit down.
During the training, the dogs spend their days at the regional training hubs and then live with local volunteer fosterers, who care for them overnight and during the weekends. The dogs will hopefully be fully qualified and partnered with a blind or partially sighted person at the age of two.
“The day that our dogs arrive for their first day of school is always a proud moment for our staff and volunteers.
“They come to us from the loving homes of our dedicated volunteer Puppy Raisers, who are vital in preparing puppies for their future roles; the work we do could not be done without them.
“The dogs now go onto our expert training programme, which uses positive reinforcement to teach them everything they need to learn to be successful confident guide dogs for people with sight loss.”
Tim Stafford, Director of Canine Affairs at Guide Dogs